Blood bank officials on alert for parasite-spreading tick making its way to S. Florida

People who lack functioning spleens seem most vulnerable to severe illness, along with the elderly and people who are HIV positive.

Excerpted from  the Palm Beach Post  ( Posted: 07/04/2011 ) 

As if Lyme disease wasn’t worrisome enough, ticks are increasingly spreading a malaria-like parasite to humans which infects red blood cells, and has been fatal.

The parasite, Babesia microti, is turning up mostly in the northeastern United States and the upper Mid-West, spread by the same pesky deer tick, also known as the blacklegged tick, as Lyme disease.

Blacklegged ticks are in Florida, including Palm Beach County, entomologists say. But is Babesiosis also here? That’s unclear, because it’s not a disease that state health officials track, and research on tick-borne diseases has been minimal.

The tick that spreads Babesiosis is so small, the size of a poppy seed, that people often don’t realize they’ve been bitten. Healthy people appear able to fend off the parasite, most without knowing they’ve been infected. But the parasite can linger in them for months or even years, and federal health officials are concerned that it’s turning up in the blood supply, sickening transfusion recipients.

According to officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100 cases of transfusion-based Babesiosis have been reported.

People who lack functioning spleens seem most vulnerable to severe illness, along with the elderly and people who are HIV positive.

The symptoms are similar to many other illnesses: fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea, or fatigue, and so CDC officials are concerned that doctors who are seeing sick transfusion patients aren’t considering the possibility of Babesiosis. It can cause anemia as red blood cells are infected, and the infection can be seen under a microscope. If diagnosed properly, it can be treated. It was added to the list of national notifiable diseases this year, so that outbreaks will be better tracked.

For the complete article: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/state/blood-bank-officials-on-alert-for-parasite-spreading-1581096.html

 

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~ by Rob on July 5, 2011.

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